After the revision of National Education Policy (NEP) in 2010, Bangladesh has got an English language education (ELE) system comprising compulsory education of Literacy English with an emphasis on the 4 skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking as well as an optional education of academic subjects in English medium at all phases of education. The ELE system of Bangladesh has been established backed by the guidelines of the NEP given that Bangladesh does not have a language policy. The educators and advocates of the ELE in Bangladesh give a number of arguments in favour of the compulsory provision for the ELE in Bangladesh. They are i) English is a colonial inheritance, ii) English is an international language, iii) English is a means for the access to the global knowledge, and iv) English is a means for the access to the global job market.
However, these arguments are not enough to make the ELE obligatory in Bangladesh. Because, the ELE as a system is required to be established and run by based on a language planning in compliance with a language policy underpinned by an appropriate ideology. Hence, Bangladesh needs a proper framework for establishing an ELE system of its own. However, there are certain frameworks in order to establish and run a system of education under the administration of a government. According to Shohamy (2005), the framework to be followed in establishing a system like the ELE system involves a five-step process: i) creation of an ideological basis, ii) formulation of a language policy underpinned with the linguistic ideologies, iii) interpretation of that policy into ELE planning, iv) establishment of an education administration and v) implementation of the planning through education administration as an ELE system.Accordingly, Bangladesh needs an appropriate overarching ideology, which can provide a basis for an appropriate ELE system in Bangladesh. There are three different types of ideologies in making provision for a language education system. These are: i) Educational Ideology, ii) National ideology and iii) Sociolinguistic ideology. Of the three ideologies, the Educational ideology provides a basis for the formulation of an education policy which backs a basic education comprising literacy and numeracy in Bangla but not in Arabic or English inducive to the socialization. And the remaining two ideologies: National ideology and sociolinguistic ideology also do not provide the basis for the compulsory ELE in Bangladesh. The national ideology of the nation Bangladesh includes four principles: Bangalee nationalism, Democracy, Socialism and Religious neutrality. Of the four principles, the principle of Bangalee nationalism provides a basis for the formulation of a language policy conducive to the promotion of Bangla and Democracy provides a basis for the formulation of a language policy which allows one to choose a foreign language as subject of study out of given several foreign languages. On the other hand, the sociolinguistic ideology (source: Cobarrubias, 1983) accounts for the principles of i) Assimilation, ii) Linguistic Pluralism, iii) Revitalization, and iv) Internationalization. Among the principles of sociolinguistic ideology, the plurilingual countries like Kenya, Nigeria and India make use of English as a tool for the assimilation in integrating the people of different speech communities into a larger society in building their postcolonial nations. Contrary to other postcolonial countries, Bangladesh does not require English as a tool for assimilation, because its population is well assimilated along with the national language of Bangla. Among the principles sociolinguistic ideology, only the internationalization provides a basis for the formulation of a language policy covering education of languages other than the national language Bangla in Bangladesh. Thus, the language policy supported by the principle of sociolinguistic ideology of internationalization covers the education of foreign languages. The term internationalization is now connoted to its broader term of globalization (meaning a process which involves the exchange of ideas, education, culture, commodities and capital etc., for the benefit of the countries and regions taking part in this process) provides a basis for the education of global/area studies (studies of areas in foreign countries) and the languages spoken in those foreign countries. Hence, foreign language policy supports a foreign language education with a provision for the education of foreign languages including, e.g. Korean, Malay, Swedish and English but not a compulsory provision of ELE in Bangladesh.
Though none of the above ideologies favours the prevalent compulsory ELE, it is run as a part of the basic education and involves a cost of approximately one-fifth (source: BANBEIS annual report) of the total education expenses, which is financed mostly with the public money allocated in the national budget. The public money allocated in the national budget for the ELE with the wish to develop human resources capable of contributing to the economy of Bangladesh. Since the ELE does not comprise the basic education for socialization, it owes an economic analysis (EA) with regard to the effect of ELE policy on the budget (cost-effectiveness analysis) as well as the extent of costs of ELE that outweigh the benefits (cost-benefit analysis). A study [conducted by the author of the article`Reconsidering the Prevalent English Language Education System in Bangladesh`. Journal of the International Mother Language Institute. Vol. 1, No. 1 December 2017.] on the EA of expenses fueled in the ELE shows that the prevalent ELE practices have continued to incur both implicit and explicit opportunity costs in six different forms. These opportunity costs shed light on the extent and nature of wastages incurred from the ELE expenses causing to hinder the sustainable development of education sector in Bangladesh. Hence, Bangladesh requires a Foreign Language Education policy, which will address the issues of i) opportunity costs derived from the budget fueled as expenses of ELE and ii) measures to be undertaken in discarding these opportunity costs, so that a maximum benefit of the ELE can be attained for the sustainable development of the education sector in Bangladesh. Thus, the above discussion [based on the study of author cited previously] leads to take following steps in establishing a new ELE system in Bangladesh: i) undertaking the globalization as an underpinning ideology, ii) formulation of a foreign language policy underpinned by the ideology of globalization, iii) interpreting the ideology of globalization into a language planning, iv) implementation of that language planning, v) reformation of the prevalent ELE system in compliance with the new foreign language policy, vi) abolition of the compulsory provision of ELE as a part of the basic education system and v) establishment of a new foreign language education system with the optional provision for the education of foreign studies and the languages associated with those foreign studies.
The writer is a Professor, Institute of Modern Languages, University of Dhaka